Interview by Ceri Wheeldon
Our latest inspirational ‘Fab Woman’ is Lorri Delahunty, who set up a vegan clothing company in her 50s, lost weight to go down several dress sizes, gave up alcohol…and remarried her ex husband!! Here Lorri talks about her life, philosophy and achievements over 50
Tell us a little about yourself
Lorri Delahunty, age 55, married… re-married my ex-husband! After divorcing and being apart for 8 years, we re-found each other. Two children boy 29 who lives in Boston and is married and I have a grandson Jacob and a daughter 26 who is at university in Worcester.
What were your main activities before turning 50?
I have always been in marketing and about twenty years ago I set up my own agency so I could try and strike a better work/life balance and take my kids to school, and also to mainly try and employ women that had been discarded by corporations when they had babies or ‘got to a certain age’, all had amazing skills but needed to fit work around the school play, kids being sick, etc, so it was a perfect fit. Now we are a much smaller outfit, very family oriented, with my son in Boston being a key part of our agency despite being so far away.
What have been your main activities since turning 50?
Whilst I still have the marketing agency, three years ago I set up VEGAN Happy Clothing, an online clothing brand with subtle and stylish logo’s, rather than large slogan T-shirts, that people could wear anywhere. Going vegan three years ago, I couldn’t find the sort of clothes I wanted to wear, so I set up a business pretty much overnight, including designing the website myself (no experience!) I think since turning 50 I have a more ‘just do it’ attitude and I don’t see obstacles now, I just see adventure in front of me. What’s the worst that could happen…
What prompted you to start your business/ take up the challenge/follow your dream.
I saw a gap in the market and I felt I could design clothes that would appeal to all ages, and at the same time try and raise as much money for animal rescue and sanctuaries as possible. We say we donate 10% of our profits to animal rescue, but three years later, we still haven’t taken a penny out of the business.
This is just the start of my dream… now I know that I am on the right path and there is a need for our sort of clothes, and our approach, I want to soon follow my dream and work full time on VEGAN Happy and leave my son to run the agency business.
We don’t make our own clothes yet but ultimately that’s the plan and also, it would be the ultimate goal to open a flagship store somewhere filled with our yummy items (although I see online as the main driving force in retail from now on in).
How old were you when you started?
I was 52 when I set up VEGAN Happy Clothing after a late night discussion. I thought why not just give it a go and by the next morning I had registered a limited company and started working on my plans. I probably should have put more planning in to it before I started, but my nature after fifty seems to be that there is no time to waste (see below about how easy it is to set up with no huge cash outlay).
Did you have to take any courses or training to do this?
I haven’t taken any training courses yet but I am looking in to training courses on FaceBook ad’s and also SEO. I really wish I was more skilled in the digital arts as I really believe that online is the future of retail and I wish I understood more about the little tweaks I could make to ad’s or my site that would make all the difference to boost sales.
What does your business / dream /job/challenge look like today?
My business today was setting all of our winter range up on our shop, choosing our clothes and creating social media posts and scheduling them for the next month. My biggest challenge currently is trying to break the magic 10,000 number on Instagram and leap-frogging the smaller vegan brands. My dream is to be like Wholesome Culture who’s success story is incredible!
What has been the best aspect of your journey so far?
The best aspect is to be able to be in control of my time. I work very hard but I work when I want. I am an early bird so I work really well when the rest of the world is still asleep, I like stealing a march on the day, and get loads done before emails start dropping in to my inbox at 9. I love that I can work really hard but still take an hour out to exercise if I need to de-stress to make sure I keep the balance (I lost the balance big time earlier on in my life, I was too much of a workaholic and I fight myself to not let that happen again).
Biggest fears over 50
What was /is your biggest fear?
This is going to sound funny, but running out of loo rolls! No joke, I have a panic if I go less than 10 in the house, no idea why. I am not scared of very much else and if anyone dared me I couldn’t do something, I would go and do it to prove them wrong… so please don’t dare me to jump out of a plan, eek!
My previous biggest fear was of losing everything I had acquired. Big house, marriage, nice car, expensive holidays to exotic destinations, lots of lovely things, etc, but then I did lose it all. I had a nervous breakdown (remember the workaholic mention?) and I lost it all. I hit rock bottom and lost it all apart from my kids so when I came back out of that black hole, I remade myself and now, there is nothing that I really fear as when the worst happened, I still had everything I needed. My kids were right by my side helping me through. And of course, I am here now and happy and so grateful but I always remember to keep the balance.
Did anybody in particular inspire you?
My Nana really inspired me as she was such a strong hardworking woman from such a very young age, to a very old age, and she just ‘got on with it’. No fuss. And my other Grandma, who was the kindest sweetest soul who couldn’t do enough for you. Hopefully I am a combination of them both, I certainly try and model myself on them as I consider them both a great inspiration, even now, long after they are gone.
What difference has it made to your life?
A huge difference. I don’t have a university degree so I have always felt I needed to work harder to prove myself and I always feel I need to go with my hunch, what my gut tells me, and sometimes just take that massive risk. I always have a ‘feeling’ about something; if you have that feeling, act on it.
What challenges did you initially face? How did you overcome them?
With VEGAN Happy, the initial challenges were trying to find suppliers who were ethical, great quality, but also ideally in the UK. It’s so important also that the price of supply was right as we need to ensure we can give enough away to animal rescue, but also ensure that our products are affordably priced for the customer.
My original hiccup was taking a lot of stock in but of the wrong items! I set up a vegan friends focus group and ran through an initial range and then bought quite a bit of stock, but most of that stock didn’t sell (it’s still here in boxes!). Since that day, our range has evolved so that we don’t carry a large amount of stock of each item so it makes us flexible and we don’t end up sitting on items we can’t sell. So with any business, you learn as you go; be prepared for bumps in the road and ride them out.
How did the opportunity come about?
We created the opportunity! We thought there was a gap in the market and thought we could fill it. Although I am 55 now (soon to be 56), I still like to think I am on-trend and stylish, so I didn’t want to wear t-shirts with large vegan slogans on, but I did want to advertise I was vegan as I was so proud of making that change. A lot of great businesses start out creating their own ideas, going out in to fresh water to try and find the metaphorical fish, and that’s what we did
What other opportunities have materialised as a result?
I hope the next opportunity will be me winning PETA’s UK’s Most Beautiful Vegan Over 50! I am a finalist and the winners will be announced next week. I hope to raise my profile within the vegan community and also in the over 50 community as I think I have a story to tell.
Five years ago I also gave up alcohol. I wasn’t quite drinking vodka for breakfast but I did have a serious drinking problem. Well it wasn’t a problem then, I was actually loving it, but it wasn’t loving me back. I was 15 stone, hardly eating though, still managing to work really well (surprisingly) and really sad inside from childhood issues (Dear Mother), so I gave up. I read a book (Allen Carr, ‘The Easy Way To Quit Alcohol’), then gave up, no withdrawal symptoms just decided and combined that will willpower to be now completely tee-total for almost 5 years.
Being tee-total doesn’t mean you need to be a bore either. I love going to the pub and out with friends for drinks, it’s just that I drive now and drink peppermint tea, but it’s still awesome!
Going sober (along with veganism) completely changed my life. I could see things clearly for the first time and decided to reinvent myself. I am now size 10-12 (was 18-20), just back from a run in the gym, about to eat a HUGE plate of good plant food, and am the happiest and healthiest I have ever been.
Turning 50 kickstarted everything that is good in my life now.
Which of your previous experiences (if any) did you draw upon the most?
My previous breakdown, my drinking problem, my marriage break-up, all remind me that life is short and fragile and to live every day. I don’t mean recklessly but to really be open to opportunities and to seize on them now. Be really, really kind to others too… a small kindness can go a very long way.
I also lost my Dad when I was quite young and I had just ke.
What are your next steps?had my little boy and I know I am 99.999% like him (apart from him being a guy of course) so I do feel all the time like I have to (want to) do things that he didn’t get to do. To have those experiences that he didn’t get to have. He is like a star to me that guides me when I am wondering which path to ta
My next steps I hope are to WIN the PETA competition (I have stiff competition though, they are all amazing!) and after that my focus is to become full time on VEGAN Happy Clothing as that is really what, pardon the pun, makes me happy.
How have friends and family reacted?
Some thought it wouldn’t work and when I sometimes had comments about closing it in the early days, it just made me work harder to prove them wrong. Mostly, everyone is behind me fully and pretty much all of them wear VEGAN Happy themselves too, even if they aren’t vegan as they love the range.
People say you shouldn’t regret things but I regret so many things. Mainly not getting sober much earlier, not going vegan earlier, not looking after my health earlier, not being able to stand my ground when something was important to me… I wish I had learnt that earlier. But about business, no regrets at all. I LOVE LOVE what I do now for the first time in my life. I have always chased the money and success (coming from a poor background, that was my driver) but now my drivers are completely different. I find happiness in the smallest of things and feel abundance in all ways. I truly feel blessed and eager to take on the world with a big smile on my face.
What 3 tips would you give other women over 50 looking to do something similar?
Set yourself a small budget to test it out and set yourself a timeline. I invested £1,000 for stock and gave myself a year to see if VEGAN Happy was viable. Know when to continue and when to quit. However, some people told me to quit after a year and I didn’t and it’s now a really flourishing business. Retail will be mainly online from now on, this covid year has pushed that trend on further and faster than was already happening. It’s now really easy to get set up on Etsy or Crazy-Bean (only ethical items) and start selling, you don’t need your own website to get orders and test your idea without huge outlay.
Do what feels right in your heart, in business or in personal. If it resonates with you and you feel a glow, you know it’s right. We often do things for others rather than ourselves, but only by listening to our own inner voice, can we get our choices spot on. So if you think of a new business idea, write it down, maybe add some pictures to make a mood board and just sit with it and think about it for a while. Think about how it makes you feel, and if it feels right, it is right, so go for it and the very very best of luck.
Choose something that’s a little bit different to hang your hat on. Try and find something that isn’t already out there. Even if it’s a twist on something that’s out there, try and find something special that will be your selling point. You need to have something that marks you out from the rest of the competition. Think about what you love, or what you are passionate about, and try and look for something that you will love doing but will also enrich others, make sales, and could give you a good living, doing what you love. If you do what you love, money will follow.
My 4th tip is (if a 4th is OK?)…
I recently learnt to ‘plan my day’ which sounds easy but try this and stick to it as it changes work productivity hugely! I used to be a nightmare for keep checking my emails and bouncing in-between stuff, but now I divide my day in to time chunks and only do things during these times… 9-10.00am emails, 10-11.30am adding new products, 11.30-12.30 exercise, 12.30-1pm lunchtime dog walk, 1-2.30pm PR writing, 2.30-3.30pm emails & admin, and so on. Make your plan on a Post It Note every morning and stick to it; you won’t believe how this will boost your productivity.
And personally, my choices would be to quit alcohol as you won’t believe how alcohol, even hours and hours later, clouds your judgement and affects your work rate (hence now starting work super early, rather than around 10.00am!) and go vegan as the health benefits will ensure you look 20 years younger, live longer, and feel able to take on the world (your energy will have no bounds, I promise you!)
A little bit more about you……
Ex reformed alcoholic (5 years sober)
All time favourite book or film?
A Star Is Born (with Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streissand) as that version reminds me of watching it with my Dad x
How would you describe your own style?
Very much my own. I like to stay on-trend without being a fashion victim. I don’t like designer labels anymore, but love championing new up and coming small vegan brands, and of course, I only stock in VEGAN Happy what I want to wear myself so I am usually decked out in stylish sports and lounge wear while running about. Avid sunglasses wearer… must be funky!
Three words that sum up your life over 50
Purposeful, creative, happy.